Independent bookstores to support in (almost) every corner of South Africa
21 May 2019
Bookshops are magical things, aren’t they? Possibly the closest thing to stepping into the centre of a multiverse where the portals to ten thousand realms beckon you to explore.
Independent bookstores hold a particular kind of charm, often becoming the literary heartbeat of a specific area – the spot where book-lovers of all ages comfortably convene, the place where everyone knows your name and exactly what you like to read.
However, as our lives get busier and convenience trumps leisurely experience, we may find ourselves browsing books online more often than getting lost among the shelves of a physical store.
This winter, we’d like to urge you to revisit your literary roots and treat yourself to a cosy real-life shopping experience at one of these wonderful indie bookshops. Apart from enjoying the thrill of being surrounded by beautiful books, you will also be supporting a small business, which is always a good idea!
The Book Lounge
Established in 2007, The Book Lounge is undoubtedly one of the pillars of literary life in Cape Town. There simply is not a week that goes by without at least one engaging book-related event taking place in the cosy basement – from cheerful launches to heated panel discussions. During the Open Book Festival (normally held at the beginning of September), The Book Lounge also serves as one of the official venues.
Unsurprisingly, this delightful little indie bookstore is well-loved by young and old. Apart from its stellar events line-up, it’s also widely known for its friendly and knowledgeable staff, wide variety of books and excellent children’s section.
Where: 71 Roeland St
Tel: 021 462 2425
Visit The Book Lounge website for more details.
Located in the very centre of Cape Town, Clarke’s Bookshop has been in the business of sourcing and selling new, second-hand and out of print books on southern Africa since 1956.
If you have a special interest in books about southern African art, Clarke’s is the place to go!
They issue two catalogues a year of new publications with a small listing of out of print South African titles.
Where: 199 Long Street
Tel: 021 423 5739
Visit the Clarke’s Bookshop website for more details.
Kalk Bay Books
When it comes to quaintness, Kalk Bay Books certainly takes the cake! Located in the corner store of an old Victorian building, it’s comfy couches and fresh sea air wafting invites you to linger longer. Plus, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the resident friendly ghost!
Kalk Bay Books hosts regular book launches, literary events, readings, talks, and even the occasional seance.
Where: 124 Main Road, Kalk Bay
Tel: 021 788 2266
Visit the Kalk Bay Books website for more details.
Melville’s Love Books prioritises building community around the appreciation of literature and reading. Started in 2009 by Jaci Jenkins and Kate Rogan, the shop has gone from strength to strength and is a popular venue for book launches.
Love Books also hosts book clubs and has children’s story time sessions every Saturday morning at 10 o’clock. With touches of interesting design and an array of cosy nooks, Love Books is a comfortable and imaginative place in which to spend time browsing for your next page-turner.
Where: The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre, 53 Rustenburg Road, Melville
Tel: 011 726 7408
Visit the Love Books website for more details
As it’s name suggests, Bridge Books works to connect authors, publishers and readers in innovative ways. Working with other booksellers across downtown Johannesburg, Bridge Books acts as a go-between for publishers and smaller retailers who might not have access to new books.
This book store is passionate about supporting African writers and finding as many ways as possible to get books into the hands of as many readers as it can. Bridge Books hosts regular book launches, writing workshops and lively literary discussions.
Where: Bridge Books has two outlets. You’ll find the one at 274 Fox Street Maboneng and the other at 95 Commissioner Street Between Loveday and Rissik.
Tel: 079 708 4461 or 079 618 9280
Visit the Bridge Books website for more details.
Skoobs Theatre of Books
A bookshop with a champagne bar? We think F. Scott Fitzgerald would certainly approve! Located in Montecasino, Skoobs offers book-lovers an unforgettable feast for the senses. The cosy coffee shop might tempt you with its delicious array of cakes, while the stylish champagne bar, complete with baby grand piano and Tuscan themed balcony, sets the perfect scene for a romantic encounter.
Oh, and let’s not forget about the books! Skoobs prides itself in curating a wide selection of books for both children and adults, with a particularly wide variety of business, self-help and fiction titles.
Where: Shop 74, Montecasino, 1 Montecasino Blvd & William Nicol Drive, Fourways
Tel: 011 513 2800
Visit the Skoobs website for more details.
Started in 1946 by Basil Fogarty in a basement shop on 59 Main Street (now Govan Mbeki Ave), Fogarty’s is one of the oldest independent bookshops in South Africa. Back in the early days of the shop’s existence, Basil and his wife, Eleanor would often host events and even art exhibitions, soon establishing Fogarty’s as a mecca for books and art.
At one point, the business was taken over by Teresa Fogarty (daughter of Basil & Eleanor) and Terry Impey (Teresa’s partner) who took the shop to new heights, opening various branches across the city. Fogarty’s celebrated its 70th birthday in 2016 and remains one of the best-loved indie bookshops in South Africa.
Where: Shop 20, Walmer Park Shopping Center
Tel: 041 368 1425
Visit the Fogarty ‘s Bookshop Facebook page for more details.
Founded in Grahamstown in 1989, Fables Bookshop was the go-to academic text dealer for Rhodes University students for many years. They recently relocated to Bathurst, however, where they specialise in Africana (particularly South African).
Fables is also the venue for the monthly Round the Bend Poetry meet and they’re one of the hosts of the annual Bathurst Bookfair.
Where: 258 Kowie Road, Bathurst
Tel: 046 636 1525
Visit the Fables Facebook page for more details.
Ike’s Books & Collectables
Ike’s Books & Collectables in Durban is truly the stuff of legends. Opened by Joseph David (Ike) Mayet on the 8th day of the 8th month 1988 in Chapel Street, it was the first South African “Africana and antiquarian” book-dealer owned by a person of colour.
The first stock of books came from Ike’s own collection and mostly comprised books about Natal’s history. Ike’s did, however, also stock Mills & Boon, which proved to be ever-popular.
Apart from being Durban’s number one source of Africana literature, Ike’s also soon became known as a venue for lively discussion and debate. In 2001, the shop moved to a new venue, which was officially opened by South African author and Nobel Laureate, Professor JM Coetzee.
Sadly, Ike passed away in 2002, but his legacy lives on!
Where: 48a Florida Road, First Floor – ring the bell!
Tel: 031 303 9214
Visit Ike’s Books & Collectables’ website for more details.
Dustcovers, Nieu Bethesda
Located in the charming ‘dorpie’ of Nieu Bethesda, Dustcovers has made a name for itself as a destination bookshop of sorts. Run by true booklovers, Victoria Nance and Nico Zaverdinos, it’s home to an eclectic mix of great reads, with a special collection of works about the Karoo.
If you’re travelling through town with your teens, you might be happy to know that they also have a wonderful Young Adult section.
Where: Hudson Street, Nieu Bethesda
Tel: 082 517 0045 or 082 333 2790
Visit the Dustcovers Facebook page for more details.
Bibliophile in the Free State town of Clarens is another great bookshop to include in your next South African road trip itinerary.
They offer an excellent selection of new, used and unusual books in a wide range of categories, as well as maps, travel guides and South African souvenir books. Be sure to spend some time browsing through their music section too, where you will find true jazz, world and classical gems on both CD and vinyl.
Where: 312 Church Street
Tel: 058 256 1692
Visit the Bibliophile Facebook page for more details.